The witchcraft trials began in Europe during 1550. During this time, Europe had split into two camps, the Protestant and the Catholic. The idea of witches came about because of the economic hardships, spiritual disorder and overall fear from the people when Europe split. During this chaotic time, people were fearful and did not have an explanation for the things going on around them, they needed something to blame for all the hardships, that is how the witch was introduced. During this time, witches were believed to be ones who worshipped or sold their souls to the Devil. Today, many people believe witches were only women, in the sixteenth-century men and women were accused of witchcraft. They were said to have satanic rituals otherwise known as witches’ Sabbaths. During these rituals, the said witches would worship the Devil by offering infants as sacrifices in order to show their loyalty. After the sacrifice soup would be made from the remains of the infant to be used in many rites of passage and the accepting of dark magic. Because of the rising popularity of witchcraft, people were being accused daily. There were around 200,000 witchcraft trials carried throughout Europe. The Holy Roman Empire obtained the highest number of trials, this was because the local authorities had the power to prosecute those being accused.
After some time, the basis of being a witch switched to a different character. Older women who were unmarried or widowed became the primary targets for the accusation. The women accused were most likely poor making them economic burdens, or had control of their property making others jealous. Once a woman was accused of being a witch, she was tortured. The authorities educed torture in the hopes that the woman would confess what she had done and name anyone else who was involved in the activities. When the word spread of the tortures, the accusations spread also making the stereotype of the old poor woman shift into a polar opposite character. Those who were wealthy, men and even children became the victims of accusation. Sadly, more than half of all who were accused were tortured and killed or tortured and sent to prison. By 1650, the accusations for witchcraft decreased. Local authorities had their powers revoked and lawyers became more involved with the trials. Religious and scientific views had shifted which resulted in people coming to a better understanding of what was happening in their world. (Kidner, Bucur and Mathisen) Works Cited Kidner, Frank L., et al. Making Europe The Story of The West . Unknown: Wadsworth, Cenage Learning, 2014, 2009.
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